Saturday, March 27, 2010

Holy Week~ Walking With Jesus And Mary

James Tissot: Procession In the Streets of Jerusalem

We have each made our way on our own personal journeys through the last five weeks of Lent; now we begin the final leg of the journey as Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday.
Looking back on these last five weeks, I see my Lenten journey neither as either good or bad, successful or unsuccessful. It certainly has had its share of good and not so good moments, but it has been a road that Our Lord has traveled with me, never leaving my side. Now as the days of His Passion and Death draw closer, I want only to return the love He has shown me and remain by His side during these Holy Days.
I know that on my own the weight of my own sins would prevent me from being able to follow Jesus on His road to the cross, so I am imploring the aid of our Blessed Mother. I also ask the intercession of St Mary Magdalene and St John. I believe that because they stayed close to Our Lady, they were able to stand at the cross with her.
These are bittersweet days: Our Lord's Triumphant Entrance Into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the celebration of Our Lord's Last Supper on Holy Thursday.
As I walk into the church on Good Friday, Jesus' absence from the tabernacle is not only visible but it is felt as soon as I walk through the doors. But there is the hope that 2000 years of Salvation history has taught us. The hope that we wait with on Holy Saturday. The hope of the promise that is fulfilled on Easter morning.
My prayer is that we not rush through these bittersweet days of Holy Week, but prayerfully savor them. Let us do as our Lord asked His Apostles to do: To watch and pray.
No one was more united to Our Lord in His Passion than His Mother. Let us stay close to our Blessed Mother during these days just as Mary Magdalene and John did on that first Good Friday; she will enable us to walk the road to Calvary with her Son.
Since I really want to take the time for more and deeper prayer and meditation this week, I will resume blogging after Easter.
I wish all of my readers a blessed and prayerful Holy Week that will lead to a Joyous Easter!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Annunciation And Life

The Annunciation: James Tissot

Imagine for a moment you are in your bedroom, praying before going to sleep when you see a light penetrate the darkness of the room and an angel appears. This angel greets you in a way that is unfamiliar and even a bit disturbing, but even more amazing and unnerving is the message he brings! 
This is precisely what happened to Mary at the Annunciation; you know the rest of the story.
I would like to bring and apply this Solemnity to our own day and time. I believe that in some way every woman who receives the message that she will bear a child lives a mini, modern day Annunciation. Granted it is a doctor or nurse that usually delivers the message, but I submit they are God's angels at that moment. 
Mary gave the angel her fiat when she said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38) Even in the midst of confusion and I am sure a little fear, she gave herself, without reserve, over to God's will for her.
Many women today do the same when they receive the message of a child to be born; many do not. The fear and the confusion overtakes them causing them to forget that this baby is a gift from God.
We live in a culture and a country that has made refusing this gift a "constitutional right".
As someone who bought into these lies and exercised this so called right, I know all too well the pain and devastation it causes.
Whenever I pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and in particular, The Annunciation, I always offer it for women and men who find themselves in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy. I pray for the men as well as the women because they can have a profound effect on the woman's decision to proceed with or terminate the pregnancy.
My prayer for these women and men is that like our Lady, they will see this news as good news and give themselves over to God's care and the care of others who will support them in their decision to choose life.
Our Lady, at the time of the Annunciation, was a young unwed mother. She found her courage in the God who loved and created her. She not only faced public humiliation in choosing to bring our Lord into the world, she faced death by stoning as well. 
St Joseph, whose feast we celebrated this past Friday, is a wonderful role model for young men who find themselves in these circumstances. He too listened to God and was able to give Mary the love and support she needed.
May young couples who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy look to our Lady and St Joseph for the strength and courage they need to say yes to God in choosing life.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jesus And The Woman

As I pass the temple on this particular day, I notice a bit of a commotion. The local scribes and Pharisees seem to be agitated over something yet again. The Man they call Yeshua~ Jesus is also nearby. It seems lately that the scribes and Pharisees are always agitated when Jesus is around.
They are dragging a woman into the center of the square. She is familiar; I have seen her around before. I have also heard of her reputation.
Those in the square begin to pick up rocks. This woman has been caught in the act of adultery and the law states that she should be stoned. I watch this scene in horror. This woman has been dragged through town and now faces death. She seems to know what she has done is wrong; the guilt and shame are written all over her tear~stained face.
The men are about to throw the rocks they have been holding, but before they do Jesus says something that makes them stop. He says that the one without sin should cast the first stone. Now he is bending down and writing something in the sand, but I don't know what He has written. He does this several times, and each time more of the men just drop their stones and walk away. I still can't see what Jesus has written, but they must have!
The woman is now alone with Jesus. I walk a little further away so as not to be noticed, but I can still hear their conversation. Jesus walks over to the woman, lifts her head so that He can look into her eyes, and asks her if there is anyone here who condemns her. She looks around, sees no one but Jesus, and replies : "No one, Lord." Jesus tells her that He too does not condemn her, but to go and sin no more. A hint of a smile seems to appear on her face. Something deep within her knows that she has been forgiven by the only One who can forgive sins. Jesus takes her by the shoulders and gently kisses her forehead. The woman leaves happy and peaceful in the knowledge of being forgiven. Her shame and guilt begin to fade; you can tell by the lightness in her step.
I continue on my way thinking about all I have just witnessed. I think about this woman; I think about my own sins. I realize that I can not judge her for my own sins are just as grave as hers. Perhaps the next time I see Jesus I will find the courage to approach Him and ask, beg Him for healing. He seems to make all things new and whole.

*Reflection based on John 8:1~11.
**Painting by Rembrandt

Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity Of St Joseph

 Scripture does not tell us much about this glorious saint, but St Joseph is a model of purity, chastity, humility and strength. In this day and age when our young boys and men are being told that most of these qualities and virtues are weaknesses rather than strengths, may we recommend our young men to the intercession and protection of this patriarch of the Holy Family.
God saw him fit to protect Jesus and Mary; that should be enough for us to deepen or begin our devotion to this great saint.
Many saints throughout the ages believed that devotion to St Joseph was imperative to growth in the spiritual life.
For your meditation and contemplation today, I have listed the seven sorrows and joys of St Joseph. When we think of the seven sorrows, we usually think of Mary's. St Joseph had his own as well.

The Seven Sorrows of Saint Joseph         
1. The doubts of St. Joseph        
2. The poverty of Jesus' birth        
3. The Circumcision        
4. The prophecy of Simeon        
5. The flight into Egypt        
6. The return to Nazareth        
7. The loss of the Child Jesus        

The Seven Joys of Saint Joseph
1. Told of the Incarnation
2. Angels adore the Infant Jesus
3. Holy Name of Jesus
4. Effects of the Redemption
5. Overthrow of the idols in Egypt
6. Life with Jesus & Mary
7. Jesus found in the temple

Let us pray:
St Joseph,
Most holy and chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for us, intercede for those we love, renew and protect the Catholic Church, and bring all those who have died and will die today to a holy and happy death.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Lorica

 This poem is often called St Patrick's Breastplate or Cry of the Deer. This is a version I had not seen before. No one is quite sure if St Patrick actually composed the poem, nonetheless,  it is still deeply moving. You can read more of the history of this poem and of today's saint here.
Let us celebrate St Patrick's feast day as God intended, asking for this saint's prayers and intercession.

Faed Fiada~ The Cry of the Deer
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

As moving as the lorica is, it leaves me thinking to lighten up the mood a bit. So, toward that end here is a poetical explanation for the date (March 17th) we choose to celebrate the good saint himself.

St. Patrick's Birthday
On the eighth day of March it was, some people say,
That Saint Patrick at midnight first saw the day.
While others declare 'twas the ninth he was born,
And 'twas all a mistake between midnight and morn;
For mistakes will occur in a hurry and shock,
and some blam'd the babby—and some blam'd the clock—
Till with all their cross questions sure no one could know
If the child was too fast—or the clock was too slow.

Now the first faction fight in old Ireland, they say,
Was all on account of Saint Patrick's birthday.
Some fought for the eighth—for the ninth more would die,
And who wouldn't see right, sure they blacken'd his eye!
At last both the factions so positive grew,
That each kept a birthday, so Pat then had two.
Till Father Mulcahy, who confessed them their sins,
Said, "Ye can't have two birthdays, unless ye be twins."

Says he, "Don't be fightin' for eight or for nine,
Don't be always dividin'—but sometimes combine;
Combine eight with nine, and seventeen is the mark,
So let that be his birthday." "Amen," says the clerk.
"If he wasn't a twins, sure our hist'ry will show
That, at least, he is worth any two saints that we know!"
Then they all drowned the shamrock—which completed their bliss,
And we keep up the practice from that day to this.
(Edited and adapted from Dick's Irish Dialect Recitations, Wm. B. Dick, Editor, New York, Dick & Fitzgerald, Publisher, 1879)

O holy hierarch, Patrick, wonderworker, equal to the Apostles and illuminator of the Irish people, pray to the merciful God that He will pardon our transgressions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Holy Wounds Of Christ

One of the things I often pray for during Lent is for Christ to draw me more deeply into His Sacred Passion. Now what I mean by that and what our Blessed Lord means are sometimes two different things. What I am looking for is a deeper knowledge or understanding of  what He went through for me during His Passion and He usually says: "Fine my dear daughter, I would be happy to do so, but with some first hand experience." That usually comes in the form of some trial or temptation; it's the old, "Be careful what you pray for!"
The one thing I think Jesus and I do agree on is that meditation on His Holy wounds is a good and prayerful way to be drawn more deeply into His Passion. Apparently many of the saints found this to be true as well. This site  which I found through Spirit Daily has many beautiful prayers from saints like Bernard of Clairveux, St Gertrude, and St Padre Pio,one of the saints who bore those wounds in his own body in the stigmata.
Reflecting and meditating on Jesus' wounds, which He still bears in His risen and glorified body as reminders of His unfailing love for us, always helps me to enter into Jesus' Passion more deeply, especially during Lent.
 I will leave you with his prayer on the Holy Wounds of Christ.
Be sure to visit the first link above for more prayers and a Chaplet to the Holy Wounds. May we all be drawn more deeply into our Lord's Passion this Lenten season and always through the veneration and devotion to His Holy and Sacred Wounds. Let us ask Him to hide us there so they become a refuge for us in our own trying times.

 Prayer To The Five Wounds
Oh! Sacred Feet, all gashed and torn,
   Bruised by the hammer's cruel blows,
Bathed in the life-blood dripping down
   From anguished Heart in bitter throes;
I press You to my lips in tears,
   With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Dear precious Wounds,
God's bleeding prayers,
   Ah! plead for me when death draws nigh.
Oh, Mangled Hands, transfixed and wan,
   in suppliance raised to Heaven above,
Pierced by the nails that torture wrung,
   From breaking Heart of burning love;
I press You to my lips in tears,
   With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Dear precious Wounds,
God's bleeding prayers,
   Ah! plead for me when death draws nigh.
Oh! Sacred Refuge, tender Side,
   Rent by the lance with cruel thrust,
There, where His Heart is, let me hide,
There, where His love is, let me trust.
I press Thee to my lips in tears,
   With contrite sorrow, fervent sigh.
Most Holy Wound, allay my fears,
   Recieve my soul when death draws nigh.1

Prayer to the Five Wounds," The Little Treasury of Leaflets, vol.IV (Dublin: Gill, 1914) 893-894.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron Has A Blog!

Those of you who follow this blog know that I am a fan of Fr. Robert Barron. Well he now has a blog in addition to the Word On Fire website. The blog serves as an on-line magazine for his ministry. In today's post you can watch a video clip from Father's talk at the Illinois catholic Prayer Breakfast where he speaks of the call to mission for all the faithful. As we continue through Lent this is a good reminder of our call to continuous conversion.
Speaking of Lent, I thought I would leave you with a clip from Fr. Barron's DVD on the Seven Deadly Sins.
Enjoy the blog and the video.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Go To Joseph

 Scripture does not tell us much about the person this great saint was. We know him as the foster father of our Lord and as Mary's earthly spouse. We know that he protected Jesus and Mary in those early days following Jesus birth, but who is Joseph, the man?
In Fr. Richard Gilsdorf's book of meditations, Go To Joseph, we gain more insight into the man this saint was. Each meditation reflects and expounds on the person of Joseph and each of his roles  in his life in the Holy Family.
At the end of each chapter are questions for reflection. I found these helpful in that they allowed me to meditate more deeply on the different aspects of Joseph's life and personality.
The footnotes that are provided throughout the book give more historical background in which to place this saint, helping the reader see Joseph in the culture in which he lived.
Many of the great saints throughout the ages have had a deep devotion to St Joseph. St Teresa of Avila says in her autobiography that devotion to this saint is critical to progress in the spiritual life. And why wouldn't we have a devotion to this saint, but it is difficult to be devoted to someone we know so little about. This book helps the reader to get to know the man and therefore can lead to a deeper devotion to him.
The book also includes a section with prayers to this great saint, among them the beautiful Litany of St Joseph.
As this is the Year for Priests, one passage in particular stands out :
"It is obvious, therefore, why priests, who are custodians of the Eucharist, should foster a personal devotion in their vocation to Joseph, especially at a time like our own when devotion to the Blessed Sacrament is drastically diminished, a time when the Eucharist literally needs priestly protection. Ours is also a time when contentious voices are questioning the discipline of priestly celibacy, and when prayer is seldom seen as direct contemplative communication between God and the soul. Yet, Joseph, again was a protector, he was chaste, he was prayerful." ~Chapter 8, p.84
As we near the feast day of this great saint (March 19), this little book is a wonderful way to deepen or begin your devotion to St Joseph.

Go To Joseph can be purchased from The Catholic Company

*Note: Nothing but a copy of the book reviewed here was exchanged for the review.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thoughts On The Fig Tree And Me

 Looking back at the person I was, I can see how like the fig tree I appeared to be healthy and productive, but also like the fig tree, upon closer inspection it was clear that there was no life and no fruit being produced. How many times, I wonder, did God come to me looking for fruit and found none? How many times did He think about "cutting me down"?
The fig tree had a kind benefactor who pleaded with the master of the vineyard for just one more year; just give it one more chance to bear some fruit, one more season to see if it will finally do what God created it to do.
So much of my life was spent doing everything but what God created me to do. Then one day, because I too had kind benefactors who pleaded with the Master of the Vineyard in the form of their prayers, felt the call to do what God had created me to do. I returned to Him ready and willing to bear fruit for Him.
We never really find out what happened to that fig tree, and my own time in the "vineyard"
still has its good and bad seasons, but I pray the Master sees the potential for growth and in His divine mercy will grant me another season and the chance to bear Him fruit for the growth of His Kingdom here on earth.
So how is your fig tree doing?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Addendum To Recent Post: The Aborted Child And Redemptive Love

For those of you who read my recent post on Fr. Wall's pamphlet: An Imaginary Confession, I have added a note to the end of that post. I had passed that article on to our facilitator who has been running Rachel's Vineyard retreats in our archdiocese for more than 10 years. She raised some valid concerns about the imaginary confession especially for those who may not have had any or very little healing since their abortion.Every person's experience with healing is different and comes at different rates. God gives each of us what we are ready for when we are ready to accept it.
If you read my post earlier in the week, I thank you for taking the time to do so and for your supportive and encouraging comments, but I do urge you to go back and read the brief note that I have added to the end of the post.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Aborted Child And Redemptive Love

One of the things I had difficulty with when I realized that I needed to deal with my abortion was confession. I knew I needed to confess and wanted to do so, but found it extremely difficult to just walk into my nearest parish and say, "Bless me Father, it has been 20+ years since my last confession, and I killed my child." Rachel's Vineyard gave me the safe haven I needed to receive the healing I needed and to finally make that confession.
However for many women and men, they confess almost immediately upon realizing what they have done, but it doesn't "stick"; they feel the need to confess the abortion over and over again. The reason for this is that they can't forgive themselves. This is a key piece to the beginning of healing.
I came across this article on the Catholic Education Resource Center site. It is an article called An Imaginary Confession: The Aborted Child and Redemptive Love. It was written by Father Antoninus Wall, a Dominican priest. This imaginary confession takes place between the priest and a post abortive woman. The priest touches on many aspects of Catholic teaching on this topic as related to God's love and mercy, but also brings the woman's child into the equation explaining how the child is an intercessor and has sanctified the woman in her motherhood.  Click the link to read the imaginary confession.
The other thing that I struggled with and still do to some extent is my role as a mother. While I do not have earthly children of my own, I am still a mother. Every post-abortive woman needs to at some point accept that role so as to begin and then continue her relationship with her child. I am firmly convinced that while God used one of my earthly friends to bring me back to my faith, it started 21 years ago with my daughters prayers.
For more information on post abortion healing, go to the Rachel's Vineyard website.

Note: After discussing this article by Fr. Wall with our facilitator who has been running Rachel's Vineyard retreats in our archdiocese for over 10 years, I realized that while this imaginary confession raises some good points for someone who, like myself is further along in her healing, it may be troublesome for someone who is walking into confession fresh from an abortion. One point that my friend raised was the priest's penance to the woman in naming her child. While our penances are to be a source of healing for us, they are also seen as punishment. Naming our children should not be seen as a punishment.
So again, while I myself found much in Fr. Wall's pamphlet to help further my healing, it may not be quite so helpful to someone who has not experienced any healing yet. So please read and pass along with care and caution.
Kevin Burke is the co~founder of Rachel's Vineyard retreats. His wife Dr. Theresa Burke wrote the retreat for Rachel's Vineyard. They both have written extensively on the many aspects of post abortion syndrome and post abortion healing. Kevin has recently published a book that would be extremely helpful to priests. You can read more about his book,  Sharing the Heart of Christ by clicking the Rachel's Vineyard link above.

Closing Prayer

Psalm 45: Canticle of Love to the King

My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are fairer than the sons of men;
Grace is poured upon Your lips;
Therefore God has blessed You forever.

Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things.
Your arrows are sharp;
The peoples fall under You;
Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your fellows.
All Your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made You glad.
Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir.